April is National Autism Awareness Month

April is National Autism Awareness Month

Can Physical Therapy Help Treat Autism?

April is National Autism Awareness Month. Autism is a disorder of neural development characterized by impaired social interaction and communication. It can be associated with repetitive behavior such as hand-flapping or rocking. Low muscle tone and poor motor control can also be present. These impairments result in the inability to perform day to day functions and ‘fit in’ with society. Physical therapy plays an important role in the management of children with autism, especially in the early years by maintaining or improving the following:

  • Muscle strength
  • Coordination
  • Daily living skills including sitting, standing and rolling.

Physical therapists are highly trained professionals in the field of rehabilitation and function. A physical therapist can help both adults and children cope with the physical manifestations of autism, empowering them to interact better with the people and the environment around them.

Improved Quality of Life with Physical Therapy

The physical therapist will not only teach, but also participate in a number of activities to help the child learn more effectively. Over a short period of time, the therapist is able to gain the trust and confidence of the child to facilitate results. All treatments are provided in a safe, controlled environment like a hospital, clinic, school or the child’s home.

One of the objectives of therapy is the improvement of the child’s social skills using group exercise and games involving other children. As they get older, the children are involved in more one-on-one training. In some situations, group therapy with other patients with autism is appropriate. In addition, therapy helps improve posture and addresses bone and joint dysfunction. The therapist may use methods such as dance therapy, aquatic therapy (exercises in a swimming pool) and home exercise routines to improve the following:

  • Postural control and stability
  • Sensory perception
  • Coordination